Why is Glendon Bilingualism Important?

I’ve talked before on this blog about how going to Glendon was a no-brainer for me for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think I’ve ever really touched on the bilingual aspect. I’m an anglophone, but I have French-Canadian roots (exhibit A: my very french last name). My paternal grandfather, who I shared a house with growing up was raised in a francophone community, but he never passed on the language to his children, or to any of his grandchildren. French in my direct family line is dying, has been dying for a while, and though we proudly wear our ancestry, our claim to French-Canadian culture and community has always been weak. From the time I first realized this, it has made me deeply sad.

I did the core french stream in school, which means that my first real introduction to the language was when I was in grade four. I immediately fell in love. I continued my French education past what the school system mandated, all the way until I graduated high school.

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That would have been it for me, if not for Glendon. I love the language, but I can’t imagine that I would’ve had the energy to keep up my studies, teaching myself, on top of my university degree. At Glendon french is built into my degree! I feel like I could never really describe how cool I think that is. You can get a degree in English, Political Science, Psychology, Mathematics… any of the many degrees offered here, all while improving your french skills. You can come to this school never having learned how to say “bonjour!”. You can also come to this school as a francophone who has never spoken English before! It goes both ways! We as a community just love language, and we believe in bilingualism and its benefits.

I once had dinner with an exchange student who spoke very little english, and anyone who knows me knows that my spoken french is still a mess, a definite work-in-progress. She tried to speak english to me, and I tried to speak french to her, and it was a wonderful mess of google translate, overly expressive body language, and stuttering. We were with our more bilingual friends and they helped us along, but there is something in trying so hard to communicate and learn through an urge to connect with someone. Opportunities to learn in more natural ways like that are abundant on campus.

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©Timothy Law/The Varsity

Canada is officially a bilingual country but we don’t do bilingualism as well as many other countries. It’s an unfortunate truth. Glendon is, I think, a great example of how things could be better. A place where two languages exist in harmony, where people regularly have a class in english in the morning and then a class in french in the afternoon. Conversations around campus switch back-and-forth between french and english with ease. I lived on campus for two years and whenever I left during breaks I was always put-off by how monolingual the world now seemed.

Glendon is important because Glendon is bilingual. An equal opportunity place for two languages, and a connecting force for the cultures that exist around those two languages. If there is a Canadian Dream, I can’t help but feel like this is it; education, diversity, bilingualism, a mix of nature and urban life. Our community is unique, and special, and there is a need for it.

This community has also helped me to connect with who I am, with my French-Canadian roots. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am forever grateful that a place like it exists.

~Britney Robin

 

 

 

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